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Fast track assessment for foster carers

Nationally, around 8,000 children are waiting for foster carers. Since 2020, we’ve pioneered a faster way of getting certain people approved as foster carers. Could you be an approved foster carer within 2 months?

The fast track proposition

Our fast track assessment process means prospective foster carers can be approved more quickly, while maintaining the same rigorous checks in place as before.

Suitability for fostering children remains the same –  you need to have time and space in your life and, above all, the desire to make a difference to the lives of young people.

The only thing that has changed is the speed at which we are able to process certain applications.

Who is suitable for fast-tracking?

  • Fast track has been designed for people who have lots of time each week to dedicate to the assessment process.
  • Have you lost your job due to the pandemic?
  • Do you feel like you want a change of role – freedom from the Rat Race?
  • Are you retired or soon to retire?
  • Do you have a spare bedroom?

Fostering could be the ideal solution for you and, to meet the needs of foster children in the UK, we’re using the fast track process where possible.

How have we made the application process quicker?

Fast track assessment is not about cutting corners. It’s all about matching children with foster families faster so you can start making a difference sooner. It’s exactly the same process we use for all applications to become a foster carer – just as thorough, but faster.

1. Free time

During 2020, the number of people that were on furlough or have been made redundant made it possible to spend the same amount of time with applicants, but within a shorter time frame. Meetings that would normally have been spread over weeks took place over days.

2. Prompt checks

At the same time, while we’re being as diligent as ever over applications, many checks can be done thoroughly and quickly.

Certain circumstances make it impossible to fast track – for example, if you’ve worked abroad, because of the length of time it will take to receive documentation from overseas.

3. Technology

The fast track process of becoming a foster carer makes good use of online and virtual platforms. This makes things faster but gives applicants more flexibility to join assessment sessions and training at times that suit them.

However half of these sessions will be done in person at your home.

Can I foster?

Check if you can apply to be a foster carer.

How and why fast track was developed

The sad fact is that there are simply not enough foster carers in the UK and Northern Ireland.

This deficit means that around 8,000 children who are in need of a safe, loving foster home where they can thrive, are left waiting in local authority care.

We want to do all we can to recruit, train and support enough foster carers to make a difference to children’s lives.

Effects of the pandemic

The new fast track assessment process was developed during the exceptional conditions of the Covid-19 lockdown.

More people spent more time at home, unable to work. Some were affected by loss of work and income due to the pandemic. (Many more are expected to be affected by the forecast economic downturn.)

Some people may be actively considering fostering as a rewarding alternative to what they were doing before the pandemic – escaping the Rat Race or finding new ways to challenge themselves.

In addition, we all learned to be more confident using digital technology for ‘meeting’ with family, friends, co-workers and clients.

If you’re among these groups, fast-track assessment is great news.

How fostering assessments work

Fostering assessments are designed to build up a detailed picture of your family life, past and present.

They draw out your existing skills and teach you new skills and strategies, ready to welcome a child or young person into your home.

At the end of the assessment period, you will be invited to an independent Fostering Panel so your assessment can be approved.

What’s different about fast-tracking?

With fast-tracking, you will follow the same rigorous assessment process as a conventional fostering application. However each stage happens more quickly, so it’s a bit more intense.

We’ve put new, streamlined processes in place for:

You will need to make yourself available to attend sessions and commit to completing all paperwork in a timely fashion.

While technology has allowed us to facilitate fast track fostering applications, it’s important that we get to know you in person – and vice versa!

Getting to know you in person and visiting your home and family is a key part of the process, and will also help you feel part of our fostering family.

So, before your Panel interview, you’ll have a home visit from one of our agency managers before your panel date.

At the start of the fast-tracking process, we will mutually commit to working together to gather all of the information needed for the fostering assessment as quickly and efficiently as possible. Throughout the process, we will be available to offer support and advice whenever you need it.

Right from the start they were brilliant, through the initial assessment and on to Panel, they couldn’t have been more helpful and supportive.

John & Ginny, foster carers, Newcastle

The process of fast track fostering applications

The fast track application process will be explained to you in detail when you enquire, but here are some of the key milestones in the process:

1. Enquiry stage

We’ll have a general chat about the process of becoming a foster carer and answer any questions you have. We’ll also explain the fast track process in brief.

2. Initial visit / virtual initial visit

We can arrange your initial visit or video call. If suitable, you will be offered the option to apply for fast-tracking within 24 hours.

As we’ve mentioned, it’s not possible for everyone to fast track – it doesn’t mean you can’t apply and be successful, it simply means we know some circumstances will slow it down.

3. Application received

We will contact you to confirm that you agree to the fast track timelines, and we’ll appoint your fast track assessor.

4. Virtual assessment

This will start as soon as your assessor is appointed. The assessment process will include references, DBS and medical checks.

5. Provisional Panel date booked

Your assessor will book this in now – it will take place 8 weeks after the start of your application. In the meantime, we’ll proceed with your assessment.

6. Agency visit

You’ll be visited by a member of our local fostering agency, who will collate details about your application and identify any additional training needs.

7. Allocation of local agency buddy

Where appropriate, we will buddy you up with one of our local foster carers. They’ll be able to answer questions, reassure you about the process, and tell you more about what it’s like to be a foster carer.

8. Training

Around this time, you will also complete your three-day Skills to Foster training online – in a tutor-led virtual classroom (with other potential foster carers).

8. Virtual attendance at Panel

This normally takes place around two months after your assessment began. The Fostering Panel is a group of fostering, educational and care professionals, who will go through your application with you.

9. Decision

You’ll hear the outcome of your application within three to five days of your Panel appearance.

Can I foster?

Here’s a quick and easy way to assess if you are suitable to foster a child.

Fast track fostering – FAQs

How long will it take for me to become a foster carer on the fast track?

Once we have received your formal application to foster, we will aim to have a date to appear before our independent fostering panel within eight weeks of the date of your application.

This means you could have a child placed with you just over two months after you complete your application form.

What’s my next step onto the fast track process?

If you’re interested in becoming a foster carer, that’s great news! Your next step is to get in touch.

We can have a chat about fostering and answer your questions. We will be able to discuss the fast track process in brief.

Once you’ve decided you’d like to apply to become a foster carer, we will arrange to ‘meet’ with you and your immediate family via video call.

This ‘initial visit’, albeit online, is an opportunity for us to find out about your home, family life and circumstances. It gives you and your family the chance to meet us virtually and ask any questions.

Do I have to do a fast track application?

No. We’ll decide, between us, if this suits your needs and circumstances. It’s fine if you decide that the normal application process works better for you.

If you decide the fast track process is right for you, as soon as you submit your application form, we’ll jointly create a timetable for your application.

You’ll be kept fully informed of everything that needs to be completed at each stage and how you can help to support the process, right up until the date of your panel.

Does the fast track application process pose a risk to foster children?

No – it’s exactly the same process we use for all applications to become a foster carer – just as thorough, but faster. We don’t fast track any application that we can’t check thoroughly within two months.

Fast track simply seeks to address the national deficit in foster carers. Fulfilling this need more promptly leads to better outcomes for foster children, who are able to thrive in the care of skilled, trained foster carers who are matched to their individual needs.

Eight years on, when working with many professionals and children, yes we still are challenged!

However, we always have opinions and a voice and I'm pleased to say we have the constant training, skilled supervision support and working with others to enable us to use these skills to our best capability as foster carers.

Anne-Marie, foster carer, Croydon

Why fostering?

  • Fostering offers the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of children and young people.
  • You will be paid well for your time, along with receiving many other valuable benefits and perks.
  • As a foster carer, you will work from home, and be able to achieve a good work/life balance.
  • When you foster with us, you’ll benefit from an extensive network of professional and peer support.
  • Our excellent training and support helps you rise to the challenges – and reap the rewards – of being a foster carer.
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Find out if you could be a foster carer
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